Savvy gardeners rarely throw anything away – rather they choose to reclaim, recycle, salvage and reuse
vintage materials in new and inventive ways. That “junk” collecting in your attic and garage can be repurposed in your garden to add personality and highlight your family history.
There is something deeply satisfying in reclaiming an object and giving it a new life. After my father died, I was helping to clean out his garage and found a corner filled with old “stuff” salvaged from the farm where he grew up – pieces of iron fencing, rusted tools, wheel barrows, a Franklin stove and a variety of galvanized pails. I found a treasure trove of potential garden junk!
Anything that can hold water can be a container in your garden. The Franklin stove I remembered warming my grandmother’s bedroom became a planter filled with ferns in my shade garden. The old wheel barrow joined this garden vignette and is filled with potted plants. Aged (and very heavy) granite stones that were used as steps on the back porch were added as focal points in one of my garden beds. Old tools are hanging on my wooden fence. When I am out in the garden and see these items, they remind me of my family and my “place” in this world.
So, you inherited some pitted silverware from your aunt. If you aren’t using it to dine, turn some of the pieces into wind chimes in the garden. Do you have a collection of worn-out hiking boots? Why not remember the miles of trails you traveled in these boots by cutting a hole in the bottom and using them as containers for plants? Old leather boots can last several seasons in the garden and make great conversation pieces. “I remember hiking to the top of Half Dome in these boots.” You get the idea!
If you aren’t fortunate enough to have your own family junk to recycle in your garden, you can claim others’ cast-offs by scouting out garage sales, flea markets, salvage yards and antique stores. But I bet if you scrounged around and looked at your junk from a new perspective, you will find some real treasures that will add personality to your garden and reclaim a piece of your heritage.